You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2014.

Not long after my first half marathon in October, I was outside feeding our chickens and cleaning their coop one early evening when my friend of nearly twenty years, Steve, called and mentioned an obstacle race about which he had recently heard and which, coincidentally, would be held in our hometown at a huge lake resort near the old horse properties and wineries.

Pumped from my half and eager for my next goal, I was immediately enthusiastic and, still knowing very little about the race, agreed that we should sign up for the Spartan and make a new memory together in our narrative. We had been Academic Decathlon co-Captains, Mock Trial teammates, and enduring friends for so long, and now here we both were at a place in our separate journeys where we had made lifestyle overhauls and lost over 50+ pounds each. Steve had been running again, and the timing was right to enjoy this experience together.

So we registered. We were by turns excited and scared and both at the same time. Steve and I are very much alike, though, in the belief that if something like this scares us, then we HAVE to do it. We have to see what we’re made of. We have to push. We have to get near our limit, and then figure out how to go beyond that point. Life is all about overcoming pain and fear and finding that triumphant human spirit and vitality deep within. Gauntlet accepted.

The Spartan isn’t messing around. For a variety of reasons, we opted for the Spartan Sprint, a 3+ mile run with 15+ obstacles. Our run today was actually between four and five miles, when all was said and done. Obstacles included: waist deep icy and muddy water pits, muddy hills to climb, monkey bars, tire flips, demon bags (bags with 50 lbs of rocks in them that you have to carry up and down hills), several walls to scale (up to 8 ft), Hercules lift, rope climb, hauling concrete rocks on chains up and down hills, fire barriers, gladiators, barbed wire, swimming, traverse walls, and more. We ran in sand and all on trails. We ran up incredibly steep inclines. This race was intense. And exhausting. And thrilling.

As I sit tonight feeling my battle wounds (both Steve and I got quite scraped and banged up), I love the twinge in each one. Each scrape is a memory, of pain and of overcoming. Steve and I marveled at what a truly crazy way this is to spend most of the weekend, putting ourselves voluntarily through rigor and pain and some insane physical demands; yet this is a way to get to know ourselves, a way toward self-knowledge. I want to push myself as far as I can and leave it all on Earth before I go. I experienced the whole range of emotions today in a short period (elation, defeat, frustration, triumph, joy, anger, optimism, and more), which made this event a microcosmic study of my three dimensional character. The wall that scraped my abs? The burpees that followed? Absolutely painful by that point. But I got through it. On the other side of pain is victory, if we can just hold out long enough. Today was an opportunity to cultivate willpower and determination, to practice those mental skills for times in life when we really need them. And today was also a chance to nourish the mind-body connection, a Renaissance ideal that I strongly value.

The other aspect of racing that I wholeheartedly love is the culture of runners. Hanging out in the racer’s village afterwards and chatting with others, or having a conversation with another runner as we conquered a massive hill—I adore that. To be surrounded by hundreds of people who set goals and then work to slaughter those goals is to be in the middle of this really potent energy that celebrates how truly glorious and productive and driven the human spirit can be. There is this excitement we feel for complete strangers who accomplish something difficult. So many people were cheering for each other today, without even knowing each other’s names, because we share a passion and way of life in common. We are living for the fire inside.

steve before spartan

 

Steve came over yesterday to visit for the afternoon, have dinner, and spend the night. Our couch from Aunt Debbie turns into a bed, so it was perfect! We fueled on roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, roasted veggies, and angel food cake with fresh berries and a drizzle of 60% cacao. Having Steve here was incredibly special, and having him at our dinner table meant, also, that he got to contribute to our gratitude journal (the kiddos and I keep a gratitude journal and we write in it nightly at dinner). What fun to have a friend sleep over!

headed to spartan

Here we are, ready to go this morning. Race organizers suggested being there about two hours early, and that was just about right.

traverse

 

Traverse wall

 

barbed wire

Barbed wire (one of my favorites, the secret is to just roll underneath it).

 

medals

 

We eat medals for lunch

fire

 

Running through the fire

hoist

Determination. My dad said later that he saw something in my eyes that was actually like determination, but something beyond it that he couldn’t describe. I told him that I knew what he was talking about, and that I have had many runs to figure out what that is in me: it is the look that comes into my eyes when I am absolutely alive, and my mind is saying that there is nothing greater than to live, to live, to LIVE. It is the fire I often talk about: that part that I will never allow to be put out, not by fear or by pain or by my own weakness, ever again.

 

spartan

We. Are. Spartan.

 

prerace

 

Pre-race: “We don’t stop when we’re tired; we stop when we’re DONE.”

collage

 

Steve and Sarah…Who would ever have thought we’d do THIS?

runner

 

Those stretches when we could run? Ah, what a break! Running I can do, and pretty decently at this point. I’ve had some new PRs lately on the middle distances. The running was actually a resting time for me between obstacles, which were super intense! I kept thinking, “Boy, my next ho-hum normal training run is going to feel like a breeze compared to this day!”

wall

 

Up and over! I am definitely at the point in my life that finds me hungry to test myself, to see exactly all that I am made of mentally and physically. My favorite chant I heard someone using during the demon bags today: “We don’t stop/We don’t rest/’Til the good get better/And the better get best.” Story of my life right now.

For tomorrow I planned a Mommy-kiddo date to see a live musical, and we might log some park time as well. I figured a couple of weeks ago that I would be taking today mainly for my own self-growth, and that I wanted to give them all of my attention and self tomorrow to try to balance the weekend out a bit for them. I sure did miss them today, but watching their reactions when I showed them my cuts and pictures of what we did was so worth it. I want my children to know that in life we should set these wild, ambitious goals…and then fight to conquer them and to become true masters over ourselves and our impulses. I want them to WANT challenge and achievement. I want them to pursue their education and health with everything they have inside of them and to want to develop themselves as far as they can throughout their whole lives. I want them to understand that life has phases and to live fully in whatever phase they happen to be in.

Pursue that fire as far as it goes…

 

Advertisements

When I learned to tell time so many years ago, my reward from my parents was to pick out a book at the bookstore. The scent and feel of that 1984 purple hardcover The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Television still summons easily to my mind even to this day. I remember the dimly illuminated shelves and my mom pulling it down and handing it to me.

If it’s been awhile: in this story Mama Bear declares a moratorium on television in the tree house for the period of one week. In this television-less time, the bears relearn the art of invigorating conversation, engage in more exercise, learn to solve the Rubik’s Cube, watch the stars come out one night, and work on crafting projects.

It isn’t so much that the television use has been out of control at our house, because we truly are not big watchers…any of us. I do not turn it on during the day. For a few weeks in August/September this year we would turn it on at 10:00 AM for Sesame Street when the kiddos had a school-time break, but we found that it was too easy for the show to spill over into the next show and cut into time when we need to be working, so lately the policy has been: no TV during school hours at all. That goes for me, too. So mainly the bulk of the television would happen in the early evening when I was preparing dinner or trying to catch up on running the house. All kiddo shows. There is no program I currently watch on television, including after my children go to bed, and there has not been all year. Bill streams Agents of Shield, I think, but I am not sure how committed he is to it…and that is for sure his only program right now, if he even keeps up with at this point. The only programs I have watched with regularity in the past couple of years have been Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

On the weekends, Katie and Eric do watch cartoons while I run. I take a rest day now on Saturdays, so actually at this point, I might be having a lie-a-bed for an extra hour while they are downstairs. We are permissive with their access to iPads on the weekends, as well, but all of it usually stops mid-morning.

So our television consumption, while not much, certainly did have some patterns to it, and I felt as though on the weekdays we as parents were using it more as a crutch in those very exhausted evening hours versus as a source of pure enjoyment or learning for our children (weekend cartoons are kind of part of the childhood territory in certain ways, right?). Just as for Mama Bear, it was the emerging habit that was beginning to bother me; and, not being much of a TV-watcher myself, this habit was starting to become not only noticeable, but also uncomfortable. I totally understand the TV-as-babysitter need at times. There are just those days, and gosh, don’t I know it. I believe, however, that function needs to be rare for developing minds. I could see hours being lost when Bill and I could be interacting with our children, or teaching them how to relax in different ways, and I have been sad about that.

Therefore: as of last week, I instituted a blanket no-television policy that covers all weekdays. Bill might still be streaming—not sure, and that’s his business—but I applied this policy to myself as well. I made the decision a few weeks ago to let go of Downton Abbey this season, in order to work on other projects. I do not know yet if I will also let go of Mad Men. I do not like that feeling of being compelled to watch something or feeling caught up in something that is ongoing and has no end, or something around which I must arrange my schedule. I love books and movies because they are finite and already complete works of art when we approach them (which I believe changes the way we interpret and interact with them).

The kiddos still get cartoons on Saturday and Sunday mornings. (Yesterday they had one hour; today it was more like two hours—three hours total for the week is not bad for our experiment). They had no TV at all—at all—during the week and no TV at all for a few days the week before.

And how is it going?

It’s hard. Or, it was. They didn’t really put up much of a fight or anything. There were a couple of comments, but mostly they adapted to the new plan without a fuss.

It’s just hard for me. No TV means I have to be “on” and engaged even when I am multitasking at the busiest time of the day. The first few days were an adjustment. It is getting easier now, but parenting is performance. Sustained performance is not an easy task.

But then. Then we all started adapting. Instead of looking to me for that entertainment, their brains began to create. Katie delved into books, began writing a cookbook, started planning her own cooking show on YouTube, offered to make a fruit salad one night for dinner and did, played with her brother, and reported today on our walk, unprompted, that she is glad tomorrow is a no TV day.

Eric made his own store, read with Bill, played with his sister, helped me with dinner, and made music (among other things).

These are all familiar activities during our normal daytimes together, but suddenly this opening up of time has everyone feeling more creative in some ways than we did before. We were talking today about our plans for this week, and we came to the conclusion that with our later afternoon walks, dance parties, reading time, dinner prep, and baths, we aren’t sure when we would be fitting it in at this point. Our dinner conversations have also become livelier. We are more vocal about what we’re thankful about during the day; we’ve been telling stories; the kiddos got to listen with somewhat pained looks on their faces to a whole conversation Bill and I had about whole brain emulation and Transhumanism. Unfortunately for them, I happen to believe they benefit greatly from having to listen to extremely nerdy conversations even if they can’t quite follow the ideas totally. The past couple of days, Katie has been exploding with more questions than ever about various topics.

It’s been such a weird, but natural, paradigm shift. As a mom, though, I am feeling some big pressure. Can I keep next week as fulfilling without TV to fall back on? I feel the pressure of work on my shoulders. I am kind of one of those people who likes to keep track of streaks.We’re on a streak with this experiment, and I don’t want to blow it now…but that also means not feeling like I have an “out” if the day gets to be one of those days.

Do I have anything against TV in general? No, I think it has been the medium for some captivating art, and it can be a learning tool. But, as Mama Bear says, I am against the TV habit for my family. I am a big believer in taking our habits out once in awhile and shaking them around, just like I did with my food consumption habits a couple of years ago. If a habit is worth having—and only an individual can judge that—then keep it. But if, in shaking up and airing out our habits, we find that they hold us back in any way, then that is the time to do the hard work to break them…sometimes just to prove to yourself that you can. I also believe in calling everything by its name, so if I have a habit but don’t root around until I find it and can identify it as such, then that would be a lack of awareness on my part…and I am striving always to be in a metacognitive, extremely self-monitoring kind of mental place. I do the same, almost yearly, with my philosophical system. I like to think of it as extracting ideas out of my head, holding each one up, turning it around, and assessing it for validity against new and old information. I think of it as a mental/intellectual housecleaning.

We have cleaned up our TV habit—for now. But a couple of weeks is nothing to get too excited about. Anyone can achieve that. I will be interested now to see how long we can go without falling back on old patterns. I haven’t yet determined how I will know when, or even if, it will be “safe” to reintroduce an hour or so periodically during the week just for the enjoyment of it (because TV is enjoyable). Ironically, one of my favorite programs the kiddos watch is the cartoon version of The Berenstain Bears.

I did not watch TV for four years in college (except snippits here and there when I was on break at my parents’ house), and I found I did not miss it much. I think there is some need to be apprised of what is on just to be kind of culturally and socially aware, but that can be accomplished without watching it. Poor kiddos—this is what they have to contend with!

Will our experiment implode this coming week? Or will it continue successfully? I am a little nervous to find out either way, actually. So far, though? It seems to be having the intended effects. I am crossing my fingers that we continue to adapt this week!

 

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is a favorite in our house for its utter literariness and theme of using our literary imagination to master the intense emotions we experience, particularly as children and also as adults. The Wild Things, of which main character Max is one, are Max’s aesthetic impulses writ large. For Max the relatively sedate and safe world of books may not be enough; Sendak illustrates Max standing atop a pile of books to hammer the rope of a fort into a wall. Max in every way wishes to, or believes he can, transcend the prescriptive imagination of someone else’s written words to create his own wild world. Though Max is unable to sustain his kingdom of the boisterous and the untamed, his aesthetic imagination does allow him a certain temporal wizardry as he sails over a year in both directions, and more tellingly, “in and out of weeks” as though time itself is a system of geographic places with liminal borders to be crossed at will with a sort of in-and-out weaving. I am once again here reminded of the connection between text and textiles and the ways in which the weaving motion has long been so central to the creation of both written and visual art. Certainly Max’s indefinite duration in his wild, fictive world mirrors closely his endurance as a character in Sendak’s famous and canonical (in children’s literature, at any rate) text: Max continues to live each time we open the book, taking it in and out of our bookcases throughout the years since its publishing in 1963.

The term “wild things” has origin in the Yiddish and Hebrew language family as well: vilde chaya literally means “wild animal” but more figuratively applies to an unruly or rambunctious child. Not only does Max create a wild landscape in which monstrous wild things live, but also he himself is a “WILD THING” in the words of his mother at the beginning of the book. Max, the epitome of wild things, the quintessential vilde chaya, is in return granted the powers of authorship. Does it take a wild essence in order to create? What is Sendak’s implicit commentary about the necessity of cultivating the vilde chaya in all of us?

I think now of Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” in which the speaker wonders who had creatorship of the natural world (“Who made the world?/Who made the swan, and the black bear?”) She arrives at no answer as she strolls through the summer grass, but that state of uncertainty does not seem to distress her because she realizes there is one thing she does know for sure: “I do know how to pay attention…” The speaker then describes falling down into the grass and strolling around all day taking in the wonder of it, leaving us with the rhetorical questions:

“Tell me, what else should I have done?/Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?/Tell me, what is it you plan to do/With your one wild and precious life?”

The art of nurturing the wild-ness or wilderness in all of us becomes a call to action here. What is it we plan to do? How do we take ownership of ourselves and our impulses? How do we then form those impulses into a cohesive narrative that makes a well-lived life?

I think also of Henry David Thoreau’s quote from his essay/lecture “Walking” in which he explores the relationship between the wilderness and civilization. Without discussing more of the context or even giving too much thought to qualifying his statement, I still will say that it contains one of my favorite quotes of all time: “All good things are wild and free.” Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not. I still find this line highly motivating when I go for a run, or when I think more generally about shaping myself and the way myself is translated into the narratives of those around me.

There are about a dozen or more ways I would like to continue to trace the use of “wild” as both a motif and a theme throughout literature (Shakespeare, The Canterbury Tales, Arthurian literature, gothic literature, the setting of novels like The Scarlet Letter—I mean, honestly, the connection between that which is wild and that which is undreamed of until it is written and discovered is so tantalizingly rich in my academic discipline). We could also explore the idea of “the wild” in probability and statistics, in chaos theory, etc). Or we could look at its connection to the Sublime. It’s there, and that streak is fundamental to who we are when we think of what makes us human: retaining our connection to our animal nature and transliterating that impulse into art and expression of higher order thought. We both must embrace, and transcend, our wild nature in order to be thinkers, scholars, and authors of our lives.

So that brings me to Christmas. With the transfiguration of my body into a form it has never been, I have been dealing with a collection of clothes that do not fit. I have kept clothing from high school, yes, from high school…even all those years they didn’t fit. Now, those clothes don’t fit because they are too big. We have in the mix some clothes from my college years. (Whoa, serious style problems in college for the most part. And for those who don’t believe me, I will just say: wooden clogs with socks. See? I told you). Next to come along: my teaching clothes. Much more tasteful by then, but at times I must have thought I was dressing a schoolmarm. Oh well, we all make costume mistakes every now and then. But it boils down to this: for the first EVER in my life, I have the chance to create a wardrobe from scratch with no rules attached. (It will take awhile, but my family was generous with gift cards). I am not a minor and therefore under the approval of my parents; I am not held to clothes that are classroom and work appropriate; I am not pregnant or planning to be pregnant again; I am not self-conscious about my body and worrying about how I will cover up my arms with sweaters if I buy a sleeveless shirt—not that I ever did truly have to worry about that in an objective sense, but we all have insecurities, my friends. I also am no longer bound by the moral obligation of trying to make my old wardrobe work. I am a “use it up and wear it out” (obviously) kind of girl (as we can tell from my keeping clothing so long); but now that nothing fits (except a few pieces I took to the tailor), I am freed also from a sense of duty to keep making do with what I had.

As I choose my new costumes and ways to express myself, I realize I can use my textiles to be (almost) whomever I wish to be without very many external influences (save the clothes that happened to be offered in my proximity and budget). I am always me, but how we adorn ourselves speaks to what part of ourselves we decide to put on stage in this life show we’re in. What is my style, when it can be anything?

Well, I bought a necklace. I know, I know: a necklace isn’t clothing and you need clothes…for heaven’s sake what are you doing?

And this necklace is a chain with a single silver word: wild. Leave it to the English major to buy a necklace fashioned out of a word and to adorn herself with it as one of her first acts of self-authorship.

Wild.

Not so long ago, I never would have bought and worn that in a million years. Too many connotations and denotations in the language at this point.

But you know what? Some of them fit me.

Bill knows. As he said tonight, “You have properly labeled yourself now, I see.” He understands my nature.

I am in this stage of wild and free self-creation, and I revel in it. I am past my child-bearing phase by design and our plan, and although I loved that part of life, I fully embrace this time of my creativity in other ways coupled with the creative juices flowing between and within my growing and curious young children. This is a time of self-discovery for all three of us as mother and children, and I can be fully present with them in that process…and it is exciting.

More than that, though, when I wear my necklace, I am reminded of how very much in charge I am of my own narrative. To know we have that ownership, even when times are challenging or even downright tough, is to have the basis for contentment. When life is not easy, we must decide where to take those plot twists. I really believe the basis for walking around happy most of the time is understanding how to narrate our past, present, and future with verve and authenticity. If we’re living only for the moment, or for what brings us pleasure in the present without looking at long term goals or where we’ve been, I think that’s a way to get bogged down by what feels difficult instead of looking at how truly beautiful the whole of life is, and can be. If I have been criticized at all, it usually takes the form of “You seem so happy all the time; you must be ignoring life’s difficulties or hiding your own.” No, on the contrary: I acknowledge life’s difficulties, but I know how to write them into my story, and how to do it so well that they become necessary to whatever in my narrative turns out to be good. I know how to keep those challenges in perspective for my character. There are certainly experiences I will only share with people I absolutely trust, but I don’t hide things, no.

I just know that at heart, I am wild. And I know that life is equally wild. I am equal with my Life. Not at its mercy. Not subjugated. But wild, free, and in love with the challenge of living a life artfully.

1545824_10100906223397843_548539506_n

This life is, indeed, a wild rumpus.

In those early morning hours when the sun is just beginning to emerge through the mist that settles in our valley, I can feel the hush of the people tucked into their houses, the quiet settling of the scrub as the tentative hares given a frozen glance at my coming footfalls with a dark glassy eye and dart among the chaparral. My favorite route is also one of my most challenging, as midway through the 7.6 miles of its length there is a steep elevation climb that takes me right past the library. The Temecula Public Library sits atop a hill that overlooks a huge park as well as the high school in one direction, taking the eye all the way to the hills covered with snow and the hot air balloons that are sometimes in the sky over the wineries. To my right the sun rises over homes and more vistas, the day coming up as a promise of new chances to produce, cultivate beauty, and to evolve.

I run many miles and several intense minutes for just a moment or two past that library. The moment  in which I bask in the reward is a quick and small moment indeed: all that work to get there, for a minute to a minute-and-a-half of being on top of the world.

It isn’t just the view, though. To run past the library is to arrange my body side by side with the house of text for the sake of juxtaposition. (No, I can’t even take a run without taking it to a philosophical/literary place—this is just the way the slosh of chemicals and grey matter in my skull happens to work). It is my “mens sana in corpore sano” route (yes, some of my routes have names or mottos attached to them), and I run it when I want to reflect on the ways in which the strides of my legs are akin to the strokes of my fingers on the keyboard or the pen in my hand. That library has made me ponder for many months now whether absolutely up-and-deciding to change the course of my narrative was an act of revision, or of some other literary function. For the longest time I believed I undertook the act of revision: amending what and how I ate, adding exercise, attending to the grammar of nutrition labels and calorie counts. That revision would result, I supposed, in a sleeker version of me, as though I were a book already written and in need of tweaking.

But I have not been a revision. All this time, I had the wrong metaphor.

We cannot revise ourselves, in the modern English sense of the word (in the Middle French and Latin versions, sure, we can look again at who we have been).  We cannot go back and undo what and who we have been. Nor are we a completed manuscript. In fact, over these many months I have pondered that perhaps there is no such act as revision, in the modern sense of looking again at a document with the intent to improve it before it is unleashed on an audience. Facebook would agree: I recently posted on Facebook a link to an article about how Facebook keeps track of every edit and keystroke we make. Although we may believe we are revising before an audience sees our work, in fact our very act of changing our text forms a dialectic between what we wrote before we edited, and what we edited that text to become. The very act of changing creates a tension between two opposing (change is oppositional at heart, is it not?) forms. Even a handwritten edit on an original manuscript functions in the same way. Margin notes. Cross outs. New paragraph breaks. All of this is a subtext that is in dialogue with both the text that came before, and the text that came after. “Revision” in the modern sense seems to imply, to me, that a magical process happens whereby something that was unpolished is run through a process, emerges in publishable form, and the origins and drafts of the work are hidden away as though they did not exist, or never existed.

156251_725076892933_57882_n

But they did exist.

I don’t really want to republish this picture of me taken almost exactly two years ago. Despite not wishing to, I am going to do it to make a point.

Could I attempt a revision of history and try to comb through the Internet to expunge from record this version of myself? Could I delete my Facebook albums that contain my past? I could try at any rate. I could pretend to undertake an act of radical revision, although I do not think Google would let me entirely succeed, and nor should it. I was not the best I would ever be, but I was the best I could be at that time. It’s not even my extra 60 pounds that bother me most about that picture; rather, it is my memory of all the rationalizing and getting-in-my-own way that I used to do. Of buying into the food culture head over heels. Of the acquiescence to live in a subjective world, rather than in an objective one: “If I ‘make good choices’ or ‘cut back’ or ‘eat organic’ or ‘let my body tell me when it is hungry’ then I will lose weight and I don’t have to work at it or be uncomfortable.” I am bothered at myself that I let my mind dawdle in that world. I am bothered that I came up with dozens of excuses about how I couldn’t/shouldn’t take care of myself, and that, even though one of my pet topics is how people create elaborate rationalization structures to justify detrimental behavior, I did not root out my own rationalizations for so long. I am bothered that I was not striving in this time period to be my best self, when in fact that quest for achievement has always been so fundamental to who I am.

So I don’t revise in the Modern English sense. In fact I look at my rough drafts of myself quite often. There are gems there that I would not want to purge anyway: the way my eyes are lit up at my children, memories of a whole time period of my life.

I started to wonder what, then, would be the opposite of the act of revision; or, if not the strict opposite, at least the equivalent literary alternative. Perhaps it is, in fact, the act of making a resolution. The Old French and Latin roots of this word, to my understanding, have the sense of “loosening” or reducing wholes into their simple forms. What do we do when we make resolutions on New Year’s Eve? Well, we make a list of objectives, but do we put them into their simplest forms? Are we specific? Or subjective? The other appeal of “to resolve” as an alternative to “to revise” is that the root has  strong mathematical connotations and denotations at this point in our language. The mathematics of nutrition and the numbers involved in running have been huge motivators and signifiers in my personal journey. In fact, I do not really believe weight loss and the building of muscle through a proper diet can be achieved effectively without objective attention to numbers, or at least, not sustained over a long period. But I know that tends to be a controversial view in this particular culture.

And so each step I run is its own resolution. I speak the rhetoric of resolution (here, the noun form of “resolve” becomes important: determination, strength) as I fight my way up hills or through speed work or long tempo runs while coaching myself out loud. The rhetoric with which we address ourselves is significant. We can use language to our advantage. I see this all the time with how people choose to frame their lives in, for example, their Facebook statuses. The kind of rhetoric toward which we gravitate often comprises the world we think we’re seeing. What if we could choose to reframe our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us? What if through the wielding of language we could perform acts of conscious interpretation that make our lives a nicer place to inhabit? Everything has a context, a frame. We are the authors of that context, and we are the readers of what we see in that frame. We are simultaneously performing acts of authorship and interpretation. We choose to place ourselves paratactically next to the library, for example, and then we read the meaning in that choice.

It is not my habit to make resolutions on New Year’s Eve. I usually write specific goals for myself on my birthday, which is a few days before New Year’s Eve…so I suppose it amounts to almost the same thing. I do have some specific numbers attached to many of these, but those numbers are private for now.

1. Continue to develop upper body strength

IMG_5273

My husband took this picture on my 34th birthday, a few days ago. Couldn’t do a pull up last year at this time (which was still 33 pounds heavier than I am now), but I have a ways to go before I will have fully achieved my upper body goals.

2. Look for the teachable moments in the McGaugh Academy and embrace them more frequently (versus following my well-planned lesson plans). As a former teacher I know this, but I will always be a planner. And I like to follow my plans. How often magic happens when we don’t, though. Tonight, for example, Katie wanted to make party hats for New Year’s Eve, and so we had a chance to turn it into a mini math lesson with a homemade compass.

20131231_193526_676

3. Remember that problems are opportunities to stretch the mind, not times to wallow. We had a problem earlier this year with an egg-eating chicken. Using behavior modification techniques (which I have blogged about), we stopped the egg eater and have boosted our production back to expected levels.

1545177_10100886282060443_819899545_n

4. Make magic, and make a little more mischief. Self-explanatory. Pushing myself this year. For example, I might explore the breaking down of the formality I often use. We shall see.

1533816_10100892759359883_2000983261_n

5. Running goals and racing goals…so I can be fit and healthy for these two, and so that I can have personal achievements about which to be proud. If we take care of ourselves, it is easier to take care of other people.

1512653_10100883649441233_1747407440_n

6. Be thankful all the time for who and what I have and express it.

1519027_10100892288049393_2097447598_o

7. PLAY! and WORK! and PLAY! some more:

995596_10100886277285013_2008794769_n-1 960281_10100886285678193_1905472403_n 598488_10100858994190553_326040335_n

1523183_10100888770738113_1839069622_o
8. Increase the number of books I read by X amount, where X is a private number. I have been spending so much time on fitness and motherhood goals, but I also let myself get too sidetracked by distractions near bedtime at times. TV is not a problem for me, but other distractions are. I do read, but I need to up my game. Although I am fortunate to have read such a vast section of the canon during my time at the university, I am painfully aware of how much of the canon I have never touched. Plus…there are my own interests in sci fi and dystopian novels that need to be addressed. Although the genre I love most right now is nonfiction…

9. Make sure my children are given their daily exercise, and continue to make healthy food choices for their growing minds and bodies.

10. Seek out adventures with long-term friends and help facilitate regular gatherings. (I tend to be a joiner versus an instigator, but I want to change that a bit).

11.  Spend 15-20 minutes every day on a personal project (private) that I am working on this year.

12. Maintain my weight at —.- (private number). Actually, I have a 3 pound maintenance range.

HAPPY 2014! Wishing everyone a productive, joyful year full of learning and personal evolution.